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Atheists challenge ‘Heaven’ on New York City street sign
July 6th, 2011
04:47 PM ET

Atheists challenge ‘Heaven’ on New York City street sign

By Samantha Stamler, CNN

New York (CNN) - A new street sign that reads “Seven in Heaven Way,” and that was recently unveiled in Brooklyn, New York, to commemorate seven local firefighters who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 attacks has drawn the ire of some atheists, who say they’re prepared to go to court to have the sign taken down.

New York City Atheists, a group that opposes the public use of religious references, is challenging the new sign, which was erected in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

“We’re supposed to be a secular nation - there really should not be any religious symbolism or signage in public places,” said Kenneth Bronstein, President of New York City Atheists. “We feel that any and all people who died in 9-11 should be remembered and honored. That’s not the problem.”

Bronstein calls the sign a violation of the separation of church and state, arguing that the word “heaven” is a clear reference to Christianity.

Bronstein has contacted the city with his complaint and has proposed an alternative street name: “We Remember the 7-911.”

Groups dedicated to honoring 9/11 victims did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Bronstein’s campaign.

But some New Yorkers told CNN New York affiliate WPIX that they disagree with the New York City Atheists.

"That's nonsense,” said Anbriena Insausti, who lives in Manhattan. “The families should honor their loved ones anyway they want."

Bronstein says the group is prepared to sue the city over the sign and what it says are other unconstitutional government endorsements of religion.

“This is not a matter of faltering patriotism or public ignorance, but rather an effort to promote secularism,” he said. “We want [the sign] to be neutral. Anyone can believe whatever they want to believe.”

“We’ll die for the right to believe,” he continued. “Just don’t shove it down our throat.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • New York

soundoff (3,096 Responses)
  1. brad

    Some of the same atheists who suffer so terribly over this little sign, will go home and enjoy some Hollywood violence, or become a peeping Tom by watching some else's bed scene. They might even log into a p*orn site. Then tomorrow they'll predictably log into this blog and renew their fight to "save" humanity from religion.
    When religion is gone, the world will be better. Mainly because the atheists can then keep their verbal puss to themselves.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      would it be wrong of me to point out that if religion was gone from the world that everyone would be atheists?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  2. WestboroBaptistChurch

    I sure am glad there are no Christian groups that make all Christians look this dumb.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  3. NewsRaider

    I thought atheists did not believe in God. Didn't even acknowledge God. Why are they always challanging a God they don't even believe exists? LOL

    July 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      they arent challenging 'god', they are challenging people that believe in a god that want to slap this kind of sign up.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  4. Teeners

    spare me Mr. Bronstein. spend your time on something that WILL make a difference and stop taking everything so personally.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  5. Enrico Palazzo

    Atheists are just religious fundamentalists without a bible to thump.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  6. FrankinNJ

    So once again this morons will waste tax payer money by bringing another frivolous lawsuit. The kind which the Supreme court has turned down again and again. Just because it offends you does not mean the government is sponsoring a religion.

    Also please don't believe the lie, that this country was founded as a secular state. The atheists hope if they repeat the lie long enough and loud enough people will believe it. And lastly why should 5-6% of the population tell the 90% that they have to bow to their unbelief. Grow up, if you don't believe in God okay, I get it, but stop wasting the states money.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      they arent, they are saying that the majority dont have the right to force it on them

      July 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  7. sensitive bunch

    The wicked find the truth to be hard so even uttering the word heaven offends them. How sad.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  8. Dave

    Who told this guy that this was a secular society? It's a society based on freedom of religion.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  9. Hence

    Boy, if that bothers him, then he had better stay away from the inside of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C., in whose marble walls are stamped many quotes from the Bible taken from Abe's innaugual address. He also had better aviod the Capitol building with its similar lauguage stamped into the stone of its walls. He also would probably want to stay far from Arlington National Cemetary with its many, many white crosses. Our country is founded on the principle of freedom of religion, not freedom FROM religion. So, enjoy the atheist or agnostic religion you have created for yourself, Sir, for in truth, that is what you are practicing whether you call it that or not.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  10. lesley

    just shut up already!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  11. Dante

    Wow, I really don't care about this issue at all! Come on atheists, there is better stuff to deal with.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  12. Chris

    Sorry, reword the phrase "never uses the phrase" to read, the phrase is an offshoot to the original phrase stated below.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  13. josh

    Either these people are too stupid to understand the intent of the founding fathers or they simply don't care. They have taken seperation of church and state and skewed its meaning to be whatever they damn well feel it should be.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • george busch

      Their intent was to not let religion effect politics, the exact opposite of what the repug party is doing. The founding fathers wanted a separation of church and state with no religous influence from any religion. This street sign is a stupid argument, just like "In God We Trust" on money or "One nation, under God" in our pledge of allegience. As long as God is out of Congress and the White House I got no problems with it.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  14. seebofubar

    Maybe we should euthanize this SOB and let him find out for himself if God exists or not.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      wow, you sound like a real religious fundamentalist.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  15. ATLmatt

    There is no grey area on this issue. Separation of Church & State is clear. There should be no exceptions for any term from any religion. The reason that this country is so strong is because we have our differences. Those differences should be celebrated and no one group should be singled out with this recognition. The name should be changed. Any other sign or memorial that is produced by a private group and as the appropriate permissions from the local government can say anything with any specific terms they would like to use.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • RichieP

      Fine. That sign probably cost 80 bucks. As soon as the Atheist are done spending $80k to get a judge to say the city can't pay $80 for the sign, just let me know. I'll write the city a personal check to reimburse them the cost of the sign, and then it will be a privately funded memorial.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • MilitantAtheist

      Amen, oops I mean "way to go!" ATLMatt! All these bible thumpers telling us that THEIR heaven sign is inoccuous and we are wrong for opposing it. Kinda like white folks telling folks of color that there is no such thing as racism. Ya gotta be on the side of the fence that is getting their a * * kicked to understand it. Fine to honor these 7 guys, but in another way that is not offensive or excludes others.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Scott

      I could see this argument holding water if the sign of the Cross or an image of Budda was present. Heaven, however, can mean anything good. Peaceful. Tranquil. Bliss. The sky is the limit when it comes to heaven, a vast sea of possibility that is far older than the organized religions that our founding fathers wanted to keep in balance. If Heaven must go from public view, so too dose the Sun, all the planets, all the stars, as they too have religious significance!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      come on scott, we all know the heaven in this sign means christian heaven, lets not try to pretend its something different.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  16. Jim

    Being an atheist is a bad bet. There is zero upside if you are right and huge upside if you are wrong.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Laughing

      Pascal's Wager......look it up

      July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • george busch

      I did my research, seems like a sure thing to me.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Jeff Quarthlee

      So, as far as you are concerned, it all comes down to fear?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Michael

      I think you meant downside. But I disagree. I treat my neighbor much like Jesus would have, and I do not believe he was a God. I get a huge upside during my lifetime by treating my neighbor well.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Eric

      Odin is going to be REALLY angry when he finds out you've been worshiping Jesus your whole life! This is called "Pascal's Wager" and there is a very long list of reasons why it doesn't work, including: 1) the fact that there are thousands of gods to worship, how do you know you have the correct one? 2) the fact that it is unknown that worship will actually work in your favor. How do you know god(s) don't prefer freethinkers instead of obedient sheeple? 3) The fact that even believers agree that if you're just believing to hedge your bets, god/gods will see through that since they are omniscient.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Daws

      That's assuming god rewards blind belief vs. reasoned disbelief. Pascal's wager can be turned on it's head. Who knows, atheists may be all he lets into heaven, and the bible and other religious texts could be one big test. After all the lord does work in mysterious ways.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Endo Clarith

      Voltaire, writing a generation after Pascal, rejected the wager as childish... the interest I have to believe a thing is no proof that such a thing exists. So there.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  17. Daws

    “The families should honor their loved ones anyway they want." Yes but the government shouldn't, that's the problem.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  18. chefofthepast

    I am by no means a religious person, but this is downright foolishness

    July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  19. Nunya

    For people who profess to believe in "nothing" they sure want to shove it in everyone's faces all the time. Live and let live. I don't have anything against aethists personally. I know quite a few and they're normal people. But it's the vocal majority like this that are complete d-bags.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Jim

      I agree. If you don't believe in something why would you apend more than a fleeting moment with it. These people that dedicate their lives to opposing a belief in a god are so silly. Don't you have better things to worry about?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • HurricaneHokie

      I love it when people say atheists shouldn't "shove their beliefs down our throats." How is having a public sign that has the word "heaven" on it NOT "shoving" Christian beliefs down the throats of anyone who is not a Christian?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Daws

      They did present a reasonable alternative. Is it too much to ask that the gov't supposed to represent all it's people not use their tax dollars to support one religious belief system? I suspect not so many would advocate the city making an "Allah is Great st." or "There's No God Ave."

      July 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Dante

      Isn't this an example of Christians shoving religion down the throats of atheists. After all, this isn't about a street named "No Gods R Real"

      July 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Anonymous

      "Vocal MINORITY". It is certainly not the majority of atheists that are that strongly opinionated about something as minor as this.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • george busch

      I have never had an athiest come to my door to convert me. But I run off several religous idiots every month who think it is their god-given right to press their beliefs on me. We are doing it because you morons p!ss us off by trying to throw god into everything.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  20. sirock

    I guess we can just tell them to go to limbo

    July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.